15 Career Principles for Everyone Working in Media

Posted on by Larry

I’ve been producing, directing and editing video for more than 50 years. As I look back on my career, here are thoughts I wish I learned when I was starting out.

May they be helpful to you as well.



  1. Media is a hard way to make a living.
  2. The most important person to your career is a mentor you can trust. If you don’t have one, find one. If you have one, keep them informed on what you are doing. Don’t try to navigate your career alone.
  3. Working in media is a life of peaks and valleys. The good days never last as long as you want and the bad days end sooner than you think.
  4. Every media project requires three sets of skills: craft, technical and people. People skills are the most important.
  5. Keep exploring new ideas – failure is the only way we learn anything.
  6. Telling stories is as old as time. Telling stories in an interesting way remains forever new.
  7. Great gear does not tell great stories. Great stories require a great story-teller.
  8. The gear we use to edit video makes the process fun. The stories we tell make the process worthwhile.
  9. If you aren’t interested in the story you are telling, your audience won’t be interested either.
  10. No one really knows what makes a program successful. We’re all just taking shots in the dark.
  11. It isn’t bad to ask for help – it’s a sign of wisdom.
  12. Collaboration does not diminish your role in a project – it expands it. Choose your collaborators carefully.
  13. You will never know “enough” – technology requires life-long learning.
  14. If you find yourself in a bad situation, analyze it to determine what makes it bad so you know what to avoid in the future.
  15. Don’t lose hope and never give up – but, sometimes, you may need to change your direction.

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26 Responses to 15 Career Principles for Everyone Working in Media

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  1. Thank you for this Larry,
    One thing I’d add which I’ve learned along the way, (sometimes the hard way) is that you do your best work when you choose who you collaborate with..

  2. Craig Larson says:

    Larry, one of the most important things I learned over the years was “people skills.” Treat others in our industry with empathy and respect. Take time to help others and share your knowledge. Building relationships is just as important as building timelines. It’s about people and processes…

    • Larry says:


      This is SO important and I’m embarrassed that I forgot to include this. So, I added it as Principle 4 and expanded my list to 15.



  3. Peter Phillips says:

    Thank you, Larry. That’s a great and very helpful set of principles.

  4. Hi Larry, I think in todays crowded market it can help if you can combine skill sets. I have just retired from teaching in a UK university but I managed to combine my native profession as a surveyor with my self taught video skills from guys like Larry. I don’t hold myself out as a professional film maker or editor in any way but I got lots of well paid work creating training/learning videos for my own profession.

    • Larry says:


      You are absolutely right. The reason we create videos is that we have something to say. If all we know is how to edit, then we need to rely on someone else for the content. If, on the other hand, we know something in addition to editing, we can create the content ourselves. Congratulations on improving the training in your profession.


  5. I love #7! In fact, recently I have been doing a lot of b-roll shooting with my iPhone and Zhiyun gimbal. I actually think it has enhanced my storytelling because of my ability to capture such variety in a short amount of time.

    • Larry says:


      All too often we are blinded by our, ah, lust for gear that we forget the reason any gear exists is to help us tell stories more effectively.

      Thanks for your comment.


  6. Jeff Orig says:

    Perhaps this falls under number 12 but it feels a little different to me. Building your network is key to a successful career. It may be a stretch to say that if someone refers business to you is a collaborator. We as behind the scenes people often hate networking but it is a vital part of most media careers.

    Plus, another principle to consider adding is always add value. In a similar vain, asking how we can serve our audience/clients better. When I do these things, it always leads to success.

    • Larry says:


      I agree that adding value is an important element. Clients are always looking for someone that helps them look good.

      And networking is critical – it may be an extension of the mentor principle.

      Hmm… I will think about where these two ideas best fit in.



  7. Stewart Stroup says:

    When I was teaching I always told my students three things about working in the industry:
    Be reliable
    Know your craft
    Don’t be a jerk

  8. Patrick Flaherty says:

    Larry, Nice list , I have found that there are people who are really willing to impart their knowledge to you and there are some people who aren’t. I had two people early in my career 30 years ago who were such gifted teachers and willing mentors that they shaped my career. They also taught me about networking and how important that is in this field. In my current position with a school system there has been a shift towards social media videos as opposed to creating videos for educational television. Because the limitations in not only how long something can be as well as the attention span of viewers I’ve had to sharpen my skills in utilizing more graphics, transitions, effects and editing techniques to try to get people’s attention. I still enjoy what I do and that’s important.

    • Larry says:


      Sigh… It feels like all of society has ADD. If someone can’t grasp a concept within 15 seconds, it just isn’t worth the work.

      Thanks for your comments.


  9. Joe Torina says:

    Great list. May I suggest a textbook relative to number 4: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This was actually assigned as a text book for one of my college production classes.

    • Larry says:


      I TOTALLY approve of this book. I once studied to be a Dale Carnegie instructor. He wrote in the 1930’s but everything he wrote is still relevant today.

      Thanks for mentioning it.


  10. The two things that have kept me working in this industry so long are:

    – be open to opportunities outside of your intended goal. No one gets to where they want to be in a straight line. Even Spielberg directed TV in the very beginning. You have to be willing to bend and flex to other genre’s or sister industries to get closer and closer to your goals. Oftentimes that goal isn’t wasn’t you thought it was when you get there and the zigs and zags are where you find your true place to feel creatively fulfilled.

    – I’ve realized over the years I’m hired for my personality more than my skill set. In my case it’s always being calm, professional and inclusive to all departments. Sometimes that can seem weird when (in my case as a DP) I’m taking lots of time to light scenes and paying attention to all the tiny details in the shot, but the up side is that the only thing that’s not replaceable, is me (or you). So if you set your labor rate to a place that you feel great about, it won’t matter what kind of gear is used, you will be compensated for your experience every time. And if your gear is used even better, it takes a good pay day to a great pay day. This protects you from the gear rate undercutting trend and it sets a tone in your own mind to not get caught up in the ever-changing gear, rather learn the craft well enough that you can use any gear and make great video. Gretzky once said when asked which hockey stick brand he preferred, “If you can play the game it doesn’t matter”

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